Why Progressives Make Bad Journalists

I wrote Progressivism: A Primer to explain certain anomalies in the behavior of progressives that I had noticed over a number of years.  For example, I found that progressives were rarely amenable to rational persuasion.  Facts, logic and even experience rarely changed their minds.  You couldn’t really argue with a progressive.  You would argue; they would fight.  They would get angry, insult and change the subject.  They never stopped proposing new government programs, spending and laws, though they appeared to lack a grand vision of what they were trying to accomplish.

To explain all this and more, I propounded an eight-part definition of progressivism.  Thus, “progressivism is:

  1. a mindset about politics;
  2. that has no rational basis;
  3. is utopian;
  4. favors the use of democratic government force to solve human problems;
  5. holds that government force will produce a better result than voluntary society and the market; Progressivism: A Prime... James Ostrowski Best Price: $8.99 Buy New $10.95 (as of 08:30 EST - Details)
  6. has no theory of costs, or denies or minimizes the costs of its proposed solutions;
  7. is a form of self-help therapy against existential angst; and,
  8. has no limiting principle and therefore tends toward creeping totalitarianism.”

That being the case, progressivism can be seen as a self-imposed mental disability in which the progressive filters out of his perception and cognition any facts that disturb or disrupt the therapeutic function of his political mindset and, at the same time, highlights or exaggerates any facts that would appear to buttress the notion that government action can solve any particular problem.

To preserve the ultimate value of progressivism, its therapeutic function, against any and all existential angst, the progressive must construct a system of scapegoats to blame whenever government fails to solve a particular problem, or indeed, causes the problem.  Accordingly, for any problem that exists or that arises, the progressive must:

  1. posit one or more non-governmental scapegoats as the cause of the problem; and,
  2. filter out or ignore any facts or logic that suggest that the government itself caused the problem.

This leads us to the question at hand: can a progressive be a good journalist?  Journalism involves two prime functions: reporting significant facts, and through commentary and editorials, interpreting and evaluating those facts.

It should already be apparent that progressives cannot make good journalists insofar as their progressivism has an impact on their journalism.  It is logically conceivable that a progressive can practice journalism in the factual sense without allowing his political ideology to affect the process.  However, aside from some very basic types of stories involving uncomplicated facts such as fires, car accidents and street crimes, such unbiased reporting is extremely unlikely.

Journalists tend to be left of center, Democrats and progressives.  This is not an accident.  Things happen for a reason.  Progressives are drawn to journalism because of a deep conviction that journalism can be a tool of the progressive’s desire to make the world a better place through positive government action. Direct Citizen Action:... Ostrowski, James Best Price: $0.47 Buy New $5.75 (as of 09:05 EST - Details)

Even assuming for the sake of argument that a progressive journalist would, against all odds, adopt an objective, non-progressive approach to facts in his profession, that approach flatly contradicts the mindset of progressivism which is necessarily non-rational in regard to facts and logic.  If it is virtually impossible for a progressive to completely set aside his political mindset when reporting facts, it is even more difficult for them to do so when they engage in commentary and editorializing.

Progressive journalists often seem genuinely surprised when they are accused of political bias.  This is perfectly understandable.  Remember that progressivism is a self-imposed mental disability that robotically prevents the progressive from noticing certain facts and impels the progressive to exaggerate the importance of other facts.  Because the progressive is, in effect, trapped in his own mindset, it is not surprising that he fails to perceive his own trap, his own bias.

The thesis of this article is proven by the entirety of journalism for the last fifty years.  For example, in America, there is compulsory, tax-supported schooling from ages 5-16 in most states.  90 percent of children attend government schools.  Thus, basically in this country, the government raises our children and purports to educate them.  Many children see government school teachers more than they see their own fathers.  Yet, journalists seem to be blissfully unaware of these facts when discussing any number of issues where they would appear to be quite relevant.  It is extremely rare that any article, commentary or editorial addressing drugs, crime, suicide, homelessness or unemployment, to name just a few issues, ever mentions as a causal factor that the persons involved attended government schools for many years.  Much more often, a story will delve into the troubled student’s personal life or the general culture.  That is consistent with the notion that progressives are on an endless search for non-governmental scapegoats.

Drugs are ubiquitous in and around government high schools for reasons I explain in detail in Government Schools Are Bad for Your Kids, yet, you rarely if ever see any mention of this fact in the thousands of articles that purport to address the drug problem in America.  I think the problem here is progressive ideology.  Government schools are the very foundation of progressivism in America.  The thought that their non-existence is even a viable option probably never occurs to progressive journalists; so, in their mind, there is no reason to pursue a factual investigation into the possibility that government schools play a major causal role in the drug problem.  The result: bad journalism caused by progressive ideological blinders. Political Class Dismis... Ostrowski, Mr. James Best Price: $4.00 Buy New $9.50 (as of 09:20 EST - Details)

Out of the thousands of articles about major crimes, you rarely if ever see any mention of where the criminal went to school for up to thirteen years out of a short life.  Progressives constantly tell us how important school is in shaping an individual’s character and ability to function in society. Why then do they fail to follow their very own thesis in exploring the backgrounds of criminals?  As I point out in my book, crime and criminals are also ubiquitous in government schools.  There is fertile ground here for factual inquiry yet none is made.  Once again, the reason is that progressive journalists wear ideological blinders that prevent them from pursuing valuable facts in their investigations.

Oddly enough, the one time in recent memory when my hometown paper, the Buffalo News, made a big deal of where perpetrators went to high school, it was apparently to enjoy a lurid fascination with the academic backgrounds of students from elite Catholic high schools who allegedly trashed a house during a wild party.  It turned out that the article contained virtually no facts indicting the Catholic students and it is likely that the damage was actually done by government school students.  Yet, the article serves to illustrate the point that progressive journalists revel in disclosing the alleged misdeeds of private school students, but are loathe to report the massive crime wave committed every day in America by students from government schools.  There is even a special part in Buffalo City Court to deal with criminal students almost exclusively from government schools.  It goes without saying that my suggestion to the media to start reporting the schools that serious criminals attend or attended has been ignored:

“So glad the [Buffalo] News will now be publishing the high schools that alleged perpetrators attend. Opens up a huge and fascinating can of worms. (There is in fact a massive crime wave in and around government high schools.) However, here, schools have been identified (and trashed) without any evidence presented that their students committed vandalism or theft. Why?”

At the same time, articles about these various problems are chock full of discussions of options for various governmental solutions such as increasing school hours and extending the school year, funding job training programs and subsidizing employers who hire disadvantaged youth.  In all such discussions, there is little or no scrutiny of the rational basis for such proposals and the poor past performance of government solutions and reforms in general.

In the last year or so, there has been a spate of articles about police abuse.  In the typical case, a white cop has an unfortunate interaction with a poor, minority male who often times was engaged in some suspicious activity or had a criminal background.  In the usual scenario, a government employee or bureaucrat, the cop, allegedly uses unjustified violence against an individual who is generally a product of government schools, the government welfare system and the toxic stew of failed progressive government policies that have made the inner city a very unpleasant place to grow up, for example, the war on drugs. Government Schools Are... James Ostrowski Best Price: $3.96 Buy New $4.99 (as of 09:05 EST - Details)

Faced with a government employee confronting a young man who is the virtual product of government institutions and policies, what do progressive journalists do?  They perform a miracle.  They are somehow able to ignore the primary role of government in producing and directing these violent encounters and are somehow able to place primary blame on, you guessed it, a non-governmental entity or factor: racism.  Yes, racism is to blame; read: white racism; read: white people!  That bizarre conclusion being posited, the door is then open to all sorts of government solutions to redress the ongoing discrimination against blacks by white society.  A non-governmental scapegoat has been found for problems almost exclusively caused by government.  All is well in the Progressive State of America.

In New York State recently, there have been numerous articles about corruption as a result of the indictment and conviction of the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver and the Majority Leader of the Senate, Dean Skelos.  Both cases arise out of their vast power over the New York economy through a complex web of subsidies, grants, regulations and tax breaks.

If we brought in a Martian journalist with a scientific approach to facts and with no progressive blinders on, she might conclude that the nature of the problem is that politicians have been given too much power over the economy, and, lacking any other rational means for distributing the loot, they fell back upon naked self-interest.  This conclusion is actually fairly obvious to anyone without a self-imposed mental disability.  The facts are staring you straight in the face.  However, the typical progressive journalistic reaction to all this corruption is to ask, not how we can shrink government to reduce corruption but rather, how can we make big government work better through proposals such as ethics and lobbying reform, campaign finance reform and the public financing of elections.  To make matters worse, there is little or no evidence provided that any of these reforms will eliminate future corruption.

All of these instances represent a predictable approach by progressive journalists applying their progressive worldview to their jobs as follows:

  1. The notion that government action itself caused the problem is ignored.
  2. Non-governmental scapegoats for problems are sought.
  3. Non-governmental solutions to problems are not considered.
  4. Only governmental solutions to problems, even problems caused by government itself, are considered.

To sum up, if journalists wear progressive ideological blinders, they cannot approach a subject with a proper scientific attitude of ferreting out all the relevant facts of a story.

Consider the media reaction to what immediately appeared to be a terrorist attack in San Bernardino.  The need for stricter gun control was discussed within a few hours of the shooting and before the details of the attack were known.  Private gun owners are ideal scapegoats for progressives as they are non-governmental entities.  There was virtually no mention in the mainstream media of how various government policies may have caused or contributed to the mass shooting, for example, American intervention in the Middle East for the last 100 years.  Nor was there any real discussion of non-governmental solutions such as arming more citizens with handguns.  Apparently not a single one of the eighty persons inside the room being attacked were armed and it is apparent that the terrorists counted on them being unarmed.

A similar analysis could be performed about any major subject matter of journalism.  Governmental causes of problems are ignored; alleged non-governmental causes are highlighted and alleged governmental solutions are propounded, always without a sound rational basis in either fact or logic.  That’s a fair description of American journalism today.

There have been a myriad of articles about the plight of the working poor and the need for an increase in the minimum wage law to improve their lot.  I have never read one such article that discussed the many ways governments impoverish low-income workers even though many of these mechanisms are extremely obvious such as the numerous taxes the government imposes on the working poor.  Nor do such articles explore the possibility that government schools have failed to impart useful and marketable skills that employers would deem worthy of rewarding with higher wages.  Once again, a non-governmental villain must be identified, in this case, private business firms, and a government solution must be recommended, forcing these greedy firms to increase their wages.  This very same approach can be seen in every area of policy that journalists address.

Thus, we can conclude that progressives generally make bad journalists. The great casualty of progressive journalism is, of course, the truth.  Since progressives utterly dominate the media and journalism, it is no surprise that the vast majority of Americans remain ignorant of the true cause of America’s continuing decline, progressivism itself.

Alas, there is always hope.  Please send this article to your favorite progressive journalist today.  You just might save his career.